Nestled on the shimmering Argyll and Bute coastline, Arduaine Garden is a haven of botanical beauty that’s guaranteed to captivate visitors of all ages.
This spectacular garden, basking in a stunning location on Scotland’s west coast, spans 20 acres and is a testament to the vision of its creators, the Campbell family, who established it in 1898.
Arduaine Garden’s location on a peninsula creates a unique microclimate that allows a wide range of species to thrive that would otherwise be impossible in mainland Scotland, and visitors will find exotic species like Japanese larch amongst rhododendrons, azaleas, camellias and water lilies.
In this article, we’ll delve into the wonders of Arduaine Garden to explore its history, its plant life, and discover why it’s considered one of Scotland’s top horticultural gems.
|1 Jan–31 Mar: Closed
1 Apr–31 Oct: 10.00–17.00 daily
1 Nov–31 Dec: Closed
One Adult Family: £14.00
Free for NTS members.
|Free car park
Tel: 01852 200366
|Accessible toilet, parking, picnic tables.
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Arduaine Garden is something of a hidden gem on Scotland’s west coast. You’ll find it 20 miles south of Oban on the A816 in an area that isn’t generally considered to be a tourist destination, even though getting there from Oban – Scotland’s main ‘gateway to the isles’ – takes just 40 minutes by car.
The garden was originally created by James Arthur Campbell who, from 1898 until his death in 1929, worked tirelessly to turn the barren hillside on the Arduaine promontory into a showcase for plants that he and his wife had collected during their worldwide travels.
Thanks to its sheltered position, Arduaine has its own microclimate which allows plants to thrive where they would otherwise struggle in the harsh Scottish weather, and the Campbells successfully cultivated a spectacular horticultural collection that lives on to this day, from colourful rhododendrons and azaleas to exotic Himalayan lilies and Japanese larch.
The garden was gifted to the National Trust for Scotland in 1992 and it’s now open to the general public during the summer months for a small fee, which I’m happy to report is more than worth the cost.
Once at the site you’ll find a free car park, beyond which is the Loch Melfort Hotel (originally the Campbell family home, Arduaine House) and a path that leads to the main entrance.
Heading through the gate you’re free to explore the garden at your leisure although it’s also possible to join a guided tour if you really want to know every detail about the history of the garden and the plants that grow in it.
The paths that wind their way through the site all merge together but can be considered to be in two halves – an easygoing lower section that encompasses lawns, ponds and tended borders, and an upper section that’s wilder and comprises a woodland, rhododendrons, and a spectacular viewpoint that overlooks the islands of Luing and Shuna, with Jura, Mull, and the Slate islands in the far distance.
All in all, Arduaine Garden has a much more ‘natural’ feel than the botanic gardens of Edinburgh and Glasgow and it’s more akin to the equally wild Brodick Castle Gardens – another NTS site with its own unusual microclimate.
However, Arduaine is much more compact which means it will only take around an hour to explore, but you’ll find yourself bombarded with new sights and smells with every step you take.
Highlights are too numerous to mention but I suggest keeping a lookout for the beautiful ponds in the lower section as well as the stunning lookout viewpoint on the upper section. Check out the virtual tour link in the table near the top of this page to have a look for yourself.
1: There aren’t many attractions on the coastline south of Oban (other than the scenery of course) so Arduaine Garden is the best option for visitors looking for things to do in the area. The main highlight of this attraction is, in my opinion, the stunning view of the islands that can be seen from the garden’s viewing platform.
2: There are two paths that offer different experiences depending on how active you’re feeling. The green path sticks to the lower area around the ponds and is perhaps best suited for visitors with disabilities or young children. The longer blue path heads through the garden as well as up an incline to the viewpoint.
3: On the two times I’ve visited Arduaine Garden (midweek in summer) there were only a handful of people walking around so I felt like I had the place pretty much to myself. If you’re in Oban and looking for somewhere to get away from the crowds, I highly recommend taking a trip to Arduaine. Note that driving from Oban to Arduaine takes around 40 minutes.
1: Although there are few facilities in the garden there’s a superb hotel and restaurant at the entrance. The Loch Melfort Hotel has spectacular views from its panoramic windows and it also has a decked area at the back which is perfect for a coffee and a light bite on a sunny day.
2: After a visit to Arduaine Garden you might like to drive south to Craobh Haven (postcode PA31 8UA). This hidden gem consists of a marina, coffee shops, a quaint wee fishing village, and a lovely walk around the marina onto a wee island that forms a natural harbour.
3: The turning for the garden is in the middle of a sweeping bend so it’s easy to miss if you’re not specifically looking for it. Look for signs for the Loch Melfort Hotel on the west side of the road and a brown tourist sign for the garden on the east side of the road.
While facilities are fairly limited at Arduaine Garden there are, at least, toilets near the main entrance as well as picnic benches scattered around the site and bench seats at the most scenic spots.
As already mentioned, the path in the lower section is easy-going with firm and level surfaces, while the upper sections will be a wee bit tricky for wheelchairs and pushchairs unless accompanied by someone with strong legs.
If you’re travelling with a canine companion you’ll be pleased to know they’re permitted inside the garden but they must be kept on a short leash, and if you’re travelling with a baby there are changing facilities as well.
That being said, it will take most visitors less than an hour to walk around the entire garden so it’s perhaps best just to pop in to enjoy the sights before heading back to the Arduaine Hotel to freshen up and refill hungry bellies.
The hotel has a great restaurant as well as a large outdoor decking area with beautiful views across Asknish Bay. It’s a wee bit pricey, but you’ll struggle to find a nicer place to munch on a sandwich in the area unless you head all the way back into Oban.
Another option is to head 3 miles south to Craobh Haven marina which has a cafe and a pub/restaurant with a traditional lounge and a wee terrace. There are some nice walks around the coastline too, so if you want to make a full day of it it’s certainly worth combining a visit with Arduaine Garden.
Things to Do
Explore the Garden: Arduaine Garden is a lush, hillside garden that’s home to a variety of plants collected from around the world. You can spend your time exploring the different sections of the garden and discover unique and rare plants that you might not have seen before.
Photography: With its stunning array of plants, trees, and flowers, Arduaine Garden is a paradise for photographers. Try to capture the beautiful scenery during the golden hour when the light creates a magical atmosphere.
Bird Watching: Arduaine Garden is not only home to plants but also a range of bird species. Bring your binoculars (link to binocular reviews) and enjoy a peaceful day of bird-watching.
Attend a Garden Tour: During the spring and summer, guided tours are often available. It’s a great opportunity to learn more about the garden’s history and the different types of plants it contains.
Visit the Nearby Loch Melfort: Once you’re done exploring Arduaine Garden, you can head over to Loch Melfort which is just a short distance away. Enjoy the picturesque views of the loch and if you’re lucky, you might even spot some seals.
Things to Do Nearby
Oban. Address: Oban, PA34 4HP. Distance: 19.8 miles.
Oban is a vibrant port town on Scotland’s west coast which is often referred to as the ‘Gateway to the Isles’. Renowned for its picturesque harbour, it’s a hub for tourists aiming to explore the Hebrides as well as the town’s famous seafood eateries and the historic McCaig’s Tower which offers panoramic views of the coastline.
Loch Awe. Address: Lochgilphead, PA31 8RH. Distance: 12.7 miles.
Loch Awe, the third-largest freshwater loch in Scotland, stretches for 25 miles through the heart of the Highlands. The loch is a popular destination for fishing, boating, and wildlife spotting.
Craignish Point. Address: Lochgilphead, PA31 8QS. Distance: 9.8 miles.
The Sound of Jura, Scarba, and the Corryvreckan whirlpool can all be seen from Craignish Point, which is a remote promontory overlooking the Isle of Jura. A 2-mile walk along the coastline offers visitors the chance to see otters and other marine animals.
Carnasserie Castle. Address: Kilmartin, Lochgilphead, PA31 8RQ. Distance: 9.7 miles.
In its heyday, Carnasserie Castle was a fashionable fortified tower that was regarded as one of the finest houses in Argyll, but now, sadly, it’s roofless and in ruin.
There is no entrance fee and visitors are allowed to explore the entire castle, the highlight of which is a staircase with nice views from the top.
Isle of Kerrera. Address: Oban, PA34 4SX. Distance: 20.8 miles to the Kerrera ferry.
The Isle of Kerrera, located off Scotland’s west coast near Oban, is a tranquil haven known for its unspoiled landscapes. The island is home to the picturesque 16th-century Gylen Castle, abundant wildlife, and serene walking trails.
Frequently Asked Questions
What can I see at Arduaine Garden?
Arduaine Garden is a beautifully maintained 20-acre garden in Argyll and Bute. Here’s what you can expect to see during your visit:
A plethora of plant life: Arduaine Garden is home to many rare and exotic plants from around the world, including the Himalayas and East Asia.
Beautiful scenery: The garden is situated on a hillside overlooking the isles of Shuna and Luing. There are stunning views of the sea and the surrounding landscape which make for some amazing photo opportunities.
Wildlife: The garden and its surrounding area are home to a variety of wildlife so look out for red squirrels, kestrels and badgers. Out to sea you might spot seals and porpoises.
The Pond: The garden features a picturesque pond area that’s home to a collection of exotic water plants.
Where is Arduaine Garden?
Arduaine Garden is located on a promontory overlooking Asknish Bay and Loch Melfort. The address is Arduaine, Oban, Argyll, PA34 4XG.
The garden is approximately 20 miles south of the town of Oban and is easily accessible by car from the A816.
Who founded Arduaine Garden?
Arduaine Garden was founded by James Arthur Campbell of Inverawe who began working on it in 1898 on the grounds of his estate in Arduaine, Scotland. Campbell was an enthusiastic gardener and he worked on transforming the barren hillside into a lush, beautiful garden until his death in 1929.
The garden was owned by the Campbell family until 1971 when it was purchased by Edmund and Harry Wright who continued to improve it by adding several ponds and new plants. The garden was then transferred to the care of the National Trust for Scotland in 1992.
Are dogs allowed in Arduaine Garden?
Visitors are allowed to take dogs into Arduaine Garden but they must be kept on a short lead at all times.